February 25, 2011
I cannot reveal the exact conversation of the International Olympic Committee members. Much of the meeting was confidential and I gave my word that their comments would remain off-the-record. However, I can say that there were seven of the top IOC executives at the private meeting at their headquarters in Lausanne. I was impressed at both the rank of the officials and the seriousness of their preparation. Almost all of the executives had read ‘The Fix’, there were several copies around the table, and we had a long and intense discussion about how to fight sports corruption. I do not know what will be the end result of the process towards an anti-corruption agency, but there was a seriousness and an attempt to listen that was encouraging.
The following is an excerpt of my speech to them and then an analysis of some of the key issues facing the formation of an international anti-corruption agency:
Ladies and Gentlemen,
We are facing an almost unprecedented threat to the future of sports. I have been to Asia. I have seen the effects of corruption on sports. I have seen the destruction of the credibility of sports – from Taiwanese baseball to Japanese sumo to Chinese football. I have seen the sports stadiums that used to be sold-out and that are now almost empty, thanks to match-fixing. I have studied the lucrative television and marketing rights that have now often been abandoned, thanks to match-fixing. I have seen the destruction of the dreams of hundreds-of-millions of players, coaches and fans, thanks to match-fixing. And, finally, I have seen the invasion of sports corruption into Africa, Europe and North America, as the effects of the globalized gambling market take hold of sports around the world.
We have already seen fixing at the Olympics. We all saw the events of the 2002 Winter Olympics with its involvement of Russian mafia godfathers, the FBI and the international embarrassment of two gold medals having to be presented for one event. We have already seen – in The Fix – that the Asian match-fixers were at the Athens Olympics in 2004. The fixers talked about it with me. The players talked about meeting them there. The players even spoke about accepting money from them for winning matches. So the fixers are already at the Olympics, and, so far, nothing effective has been done to stop them.
It is time to put away all the rivalries and cross-agendas in sport. I know that there are many personal and professional agendas in the sports world. I know that the private gambling companies may not like the public gambling companies and vice versa. I know that there are all kinds of divisions around anti-doping. But it is time to put those divisive issues aside, because we are facing a unique and rare challenge that behooves all of us to do things differently then we have ever done them before.
I began today’s presentation but saying that we were facing an almost unprecedented challenge to the future of sport. However, there was another time when corruption linked to match-fixing and gambling were threatening to destroy sport. It was a time when corruption was successfully fought off. It was the late 1880s and early 1890s. Our great-grandparents were facing the destruction of professional road-racing, rowing and cross-country running, along with a myriad of other sports, from match-fixing by professional gambling. The great Pierre de Coubertin created your very own organization, the foundation that built these walls, equipped this building and set fire to the imaginations of people around the world by forming the modern Olympic movement to fight those challenges. If that was the response of our forefathers, then we too can rise to the challenge. The corruption of world sport should not happen on our watch. It is our time, our generation’s challenge to fight against it and we should not fail.
What is the main issue for tomorrow’s (March 1st) meeting against match-fixing at the IOC?
i) There must be a credible working group created to tackle all sports corruption. It must include a broad range of people involved in the fight against corruption.
ii) A newly-established anti-corruption agency must fight against all forms of sports corruption, not just the sports gambling. Athletes when seeing corrupt sports officials, do not make a difference between gambling and other forms of corruption. Therefore,
iii) There must be a form of certification (similar to the ISO 9001 system) of every sports organization that wants to take part in international sports events. This method would ensure that all sports and national associations would be honestly-run.